Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum! Or better yet, a mug of vin chaud to ward off the winter chill that has finally descended on Paris in all its soggy splendor. It’s looking like it won’t get cold enough to snow again this Christmas, but there are plenty of other fun holiday events and pretty lights around town to keep you distracted through the new year.
Villages de Noël
Christmas Villages (aka Marchés de Noël) are festive little chalets selling everything from handmade crafts, kitsch toys and French gifts to every kind of regional food and hot wine. There are also kids’ rides, Père Noël, and sometimes musical entertainment. Check out my video from last year’s Marché de Noël on the Champs-Elysées.
The main markets:
- Trocadéro (through Jan 2). At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, with a French Alps theme, a skating rink and artificial snow. Open daily 10:30am-7:30pm.
- Champs-Elysées (through Jan 2). Over 150 chalets lining the streets at the Place de la Concorde end of the Champs-Elysées, with kids’ rides and an ice trail. Open daily 10am-11pm (Fri-Sat until midnight).
- St Germain (until Jan 2): about 25 chalets along the Boulevard St Germain, daily 10:30am-7:30pm.
- La Défense (through Dec 27th, closed the 25th). This is the largest market, with over 350 stands set up on the Parvis de la Défense, with magical views over Paris at night. Open 11am-7:30pm.
- There are little markets at Montparnasse and Gare de l’Est stations, at Place d’Italie, at Notre Dame, and at Place du Nation.
La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde (through February 19th). Enjoy panoramic views from the little heated compartments in the city’s famous ferris wheel, first erected in 1900. Open daily from 11am-midnight, entry €10 for adults, €5 for kids under 10.
Holiday Festival at the Grand Palais
The Grand Palais on the Champs Elysées is having their second annual Jours de Fêtes (through Jan 2nd) under the big glass and iron nave with a ferris wheel, kids’ rides, cotton candy, carnival games and music. Entry €10 for kids, €15 for adults. Open daily 11am-11:30pm (closes at 7:30pm Dec 24 and 31st). Note: it’s covered from the elements, but still cold inside, dress accordingly.
- Hôtel de Ville (through March 4th). Free skating in front of the City Hall with a separate rink for small kids. Free (skate rental €5, ID required). Open Mon-Fri noon-10pm, Sat-Sun and holidays from 9am-10pm. Note: you must have gloves or they won’t let you in. Cheap gloves on sale in front of the BHV across the street.
- Eiffel Tower (through Jan 31). Skate on the first level of the Eiffel Tower, next to a bar serving hot chocolate and vin chaud. Open daily 10:30am-10:30pm, free entry and skate rental to anyone with an Eiffel Tower entrance ticket (you can reserve them in advance to avoid lines here).
- Stade Charlety (RER Cité Universitaire, in the 13th arrondissement): through Jan 2nd, the stadium is a winter sports village for kids 3-16 years old, with skating, skiing, sledding, trampolines and snow climbing. Free entry to kids and their parents. Open Mon-Sat 1:30-6:30pm. Closed Jan 1st.
- Trocadéro (through Jan 2). There’s a small rink at the Christmas Village (see above).
Exceptional Opening of the Carnival Arts Museum
The private Musée des Arts Forains (seen in “Midnight in Paris”) is exceptionally open to the public, wonderfully decorated like a vintage winter wonderland. See my article with photos from last year here. Open December 26 through January 2, daily from 10am-6pm, entry €10 (or try and get one of the limited number of free invitations from the Acceuil at the Mairie du 13ème, Place d’Italie). At the Pavillons de Bercy (53 avenue des Terroirs de France, 12th, M° Cour St Emilion).
Carrousels, “Les Manèges” are free for kids all over Paris through January 1st, daily from 10am-7pm. You can find them in squares in almost every arrondissement:
- Square du Temple, 3rd
- Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4th
- Square Saint-Médard (Rue Mouffetard), 5th
- Place Saint Sulpice, 6th
- Place Joffre (M° Ecole Militaire), 7th
- Place de la Concorde, 8th
- Place de la Madeleine, 8th
- Place Lino Ventura (Pigalle), 9th
- Square Bonsergent, 10th
- Square du Père Chaillet (M° Voltaire), 11th
- Rue Hénard (M° Montgallet), 12th
- Place d’Italie, 13th
- Corner of Rues Didot and Jacquier, 14th
- Place Raoul Dautry (in front of Montparnasse Station), 15th
- Place du Trocadéro, 16th
- Place du Docteur Félix Lobligeois (Parc Batignolles), 17th
- Square Louise Michel (foot of Sacré Coeur), 18th
- Place Armand Carrel (north end of Parc Buttes Chaumont), 19th
- Rue Belgrand (north of Père Lachaise), 20th
Paris always has at least one circus show, but during the holidays you’ll find a bunch of them (and for those who hate to see animals in circuses, some are animal-free, acrobats only):
- The Cirque du Soleil (“Corteo” through Jan 8)
- The Romanès Circus (through Jan 2)
- Virtuose, by the Cirque Bouglione (through Mar 4)
- The World Festival of the Circus of Tomorrow (from January 26 - 29)
Note: There are no fireworks in Paris for Christmas nor New Year’s Eve.